As all round commitment goes, Chris Hayes has to be one of the best in the five year history of St Helens Tri. Rarely has a week gone by when he has been absent from the range of coached sessions and each time he has returned having given thought on how to improve in one area or another. Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you improve as long as you do, after all a minute faster is a minute faster, yes? Well, on Snowdonia Marathon weekend he took the club into unchartered territory at the Marrakech half Ironman featuring a fast bike course and the joys of running in 31c heat. His hard work, especially at the Friday night track sessions was rewarded with a terrific result as he completed the course in a time of 5:32:31, placing him 76th in his age category, a division with over 200 finishers. The following weekend Mike Gregory was the club’s only entrant in the Tatton 10k where he overcame the stormy conditions to complete the 13.1 in under 1 hour 55 minutes.
One of the curiosities of the November schedule is the fact that the Warrington Way 40 miler is nearly always the same day as the second round of the Manchester Cross Country League and 2019 was no different. Lee Stinch is no stranger to this event which passes through four checkpoints in four villages. Like a longer version of the Helsby Half Marathon, really. Most people dropped over half an hour on last year’s times due to the XC section of the course being caked in mud but Lee only went 10 minutes slower and was thrilled with 14th overall and 10th in his age group with a time of 6 hours 49 minutes while Gary Birch battled on into the night and his mental fortitude was rewarded as he completed in a little over nine hours. Meanwhile the club was out in force at the University Playing Fields in Bagley with league positions and intra club points up for grabs. Claire Murphy looks unstoppable in the ladies competition and made it two wins from two as she finished 162nd overall in a time of 34:54, her son Oliver having placed 35th in the U17 Boys race earlier. Behind Claire a cracking battle was on between Chris Forber and Sheena Shearman for second and third counter home, which was only resolved at the end by just three seconds as Chris got the nod. Six men faced the timekeepers at the 2:30 start and Michael Forber was always going to be favourite to come home first. He duly delivered in under 40 minutes leaving the remaining St Helens Tri members stretched out behind. Kevin Dunbar’s 41:32 was next best as he moved into the lead of the club points competition while Patrick Neill was around another two minutes further back, cracking the top 300 in the process. The remaining runners were separated by only just over a minute with Chris Murphy putting in a gritty performance to edge out Mike Gregory, while Chris Hayes made his debut on the mud and was rewarded with a creditable 47:27 time less than half a minute behind Mike.
Jennifer Miller hasn’t been as active in 2019 as she was in previous years but she would have her moment in the very bright sun of Lytham St Anne’s for the annual Windmill 10k on Remembrance Sunday. Most other 10k times over recent years have hovered around the hour mark or just under, but on this flat fast course she was in her element, driven on by the sense of occasion Remembrance Day brings every year and she was justifiably delighted with her final time of 54:17 rounding off a fortnight of racing where she was the star together with Chris Hayes for Marrakech and Lee Stinch for the Warrington Way. It is worth noting that round 3 of the cross country league is on Sunday 8 December NOT Saturday 7th as Arrowe Park is already occupied on the original date.